ENVIRONMENT secretary Michael Gove has been invited to view Serco NorthLink's livestock shipping system in person as part of the UK government's consultation into live animals exports and transportation.
The invitation has been extended by farmers' union NFU Scotland and Serco NorthLink, who want Gove to "view first-hand the excellent standards of animal welfare associated with the shipment of cattle from Orkney and Shetland to Aberdeen".
Earlier this month Gove announced that the government would be seeking evidence in view of potentially banning the export of live animals post-Brexit, while it also wants to explore welfare standards for live animal movements.
NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said NorthLink's cassette style system is an "excellent example" of livestock transport which has animal welfare at the "forefront".
"The safe transport of animals around Scotland is an intrinsic part of our livestock industry and animal welfare is taken very seriously both for the reputation and quality of Scottish produce" he said.
"Indeed, the assurance schemes under which the vast majority of livestock products are produced extend across the life of the animal, ensuring welfare is protected throughout the whole chain including transport.
"In our response to Westminster's call for evidence, we will demonstrate how high standards for animal movement – whether set by the EU, assurance schemes or through industry collaboration – are already adhered to.
"The cassette system that is operated by Serco NorthLink Ferries travelling from the Northern Isles to Aberdeen is an excellent example of transport from the Scottish islands where welfare of stock is at the forefront - from loading, to shipping, to unloading.
"Having seen the system in operation, I am convinced that it is an example of best practice in the movement of animals which we would be delighted to have an opportunity to show to the Secretary of State and his officials."
Freight manager at Serco NorthLink Ferries Kris Bevan added: "The cassette system operated by Serco NorthLink Ferries travelling from the Northern Isles to Aberdeen ensures the welfare of animals travelling by ferry.
"In a process developed jointly by industry and ferry operators, animals are moved on assured vehicles that are properly secured to the ferry in specially designed containers."
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott welcomed the invitation, saying that looks forward to Gove "being in Aberdeen and recognising that livestock shipments from the Northern Isles must continue using a system that everyone supports."
Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing previously said a ban on live exports would cause "substantial harm" to the country's livestock industry, particularly in the Northern Isles.